ARC Review: DEFEKT (Finna #2) by Nino Cipri (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: April 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: bleeding (mild), doppelgangers

This unexpected sequel to Finna starts off with the backstory of why Derek couldn’t come into that fateful work day when Jules and Ava fall into a wormhole. What continues is an unexpected shift to tame homicidal toilets with a team of Derek’s own doppelgangers.

With fantastic dynamics, characters that leap off the page, and the cost of company loyalty, Defekt is a wonderfully weird sequel which leaves the reader wide-eyed at the strangeness and grinning with delight.

This book was a ton of fun. I feel like the tone went from scary-weird to funny-weird with clever uses of character introductions. Derek, as a person, is relatively harmless, albeit annoying as far as coworkers go. He’s senselessly loyal to LitenVäld, including details like how he lives in a cargo trailer near the store and seems to not know how to interact with other humans. He feels suddenly ill one day and takes a sick day, leading him to sleep for 30 hours which accidentally causes the relationship tension in Finna.

To make up for his absence, Derek gets assigned to a special inventory unit to deal with defekta, or mutant furniture. In true LitenVäld form, however, his coworkers are also his clones. I enjoyed how Cipri pulled this off. Each doppelganger definitely feels like they’re cut from the same cloth as Derek. It was also super exciting to see him interact with being that aren’t all LitenVäld all the time. It’s really funny from the end, and the inclusion of company handbook advice between the chapters to remind the reader of the capitalist horror that is this future brand.

Author Nino Cipri returns to the blog to talk about this sequel, which will be posted on release day, April 20.

Review: THE ICE MAN: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo (2006)

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2006
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Consumption by rats, mafia violence, murder, gore, dismemberment, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, drug use, alcoholism

I got here via The Last Podcast on the Left series on Richard Kuklinski. It covers most of what happens in this book. The abridged version is ridiculous. But the unabridged account of Richard Kuklinski and his career as a mafia contract killer borders on fictional. Taking place in the tri-state area from the later 50’s to the late 80’s, this book uncovers a grisly piece of New York City history. The mafia was at their peak of activity, and the New York Police Department worked to take down the vast networks of associates and core family members. But Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski served several families and largely stayed off the NYPD’s radar.

This biography is about as rounded as you can get when examining the life and crimes of a killer who managed to hide his work from his family.

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Review: ENDURANCE: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (1959)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 1959
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Frostbite, graphic descriptions of amputations, hunting, consumption of pets, gangrene

Spoiler alert: they all survive this one.

Told with rich contextualization of the available technology and understanding of wilderness survival in the early 1900’s, Endurance covers the harrowing adventure of Ernest Shackleton and his crew attempting to reach the South Pole. With fantastic characterizations and attention-to-detail, Lansing’s account captures all the trials and tribulations. Ultimately, it shows what a difference exploring a place with a landmass rather than strictly unpredictable ice floes and pack ice can make on the success of a journey. Though they failed in reaching their destination, there is this story to be told in all its rugged excitement.

As it always is with me and these types of stories, I wanna go to the South Pole at the end of the day.

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Author to Author with C.L. Clark

Touraine returns to the country of her birth with the colonizing force who took her in the first place and made her a conscript. After saving the royal Luca from an assassination attempt, she finds herself fighting more diplomatic battles, especially as the rebel forces want to use her as a mediator between them and the colonists. Riveting and multi-faceted, The Unbroken truly has everything: espionage, a ball, flirty language tutoring, a queernorm world, a nuanced depiction of a rebellion against an empire, and an exploration of identity and its complexities in the context of colonialism.

I’m so excited to have author C.L. Clark on the blog to talk about what inspired the world-building, their road to publishing, and even an entire list of books to read next.

Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

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Review: THE RAGE OF DRAGONS (The Burning#1) by Evan Winter (2019)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, gore, blood, body horror, incineration

Since this book came out, many people whose reviews and tastes I respect encouraged me to read it. But they didn’t tell me why, and for that, I am miffed at them (not really, not at all).

In a world ravaged by war, Tau loses his father and vows revenge on those who betrayed him. To do this, he enrolls in a battle school to become the greatest swordsman who ever lived. The challenges along the way include battles against women who can call dragons from a demon dimension to Enrage warriors into becoming horrific beasts of battle quite literally and the nobility who sneer at him for his caste and underestimate him at every turn.

This book is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys giant battles, big stakes, heart-wrenching personal tensions, and, of course, dragons.

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ARC Review: THE UNBROKEN (Magic of the Lost #1) by C.L. Clark (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC provided by the author
Content warning: depictions of colonial violence, gore, past attempted rape, threats of rape, threats of torture, disembowelment, graphic violence, vomiting, plague, destruction of sacred sites

I was beyond thrilled to receive an ARC. I’ve been hearing so much about the beauty of Touraine’s arms, the complexity of the world-building, and more. This book delivers on so many notes, from the nuanced depiction of a rebellion against an empire to the complexity of the key players to fine detail work woven throughout.

Continuing conversations started by works like The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Unbroken turns colonist narratives on its head with two resilient main characters trying to do their best in a political structure that wants both of them to fail.

Author C.L. Clarke will be featured in an interview to be posted on March 23rd (release day).

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ARC Review: A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: vomiting, death, attempted genocide

The sequel to A Memory Called Empire picks up right where the previous entry left off: with Mahit Dzmare returning to Lsel Station. However, we are treated to a few new POV characters in the form of Nine Hibiscus and her fleet waging war on aliens they can’t communicate with who fight back with novel weaponry.

Taking a few pages out of Arrival (2016), the second half of Teixcalaan’s story moves away from a single location mystery and brings that political intrigue to space and beyond. As hypnotic as the first and ties up many loose ends in its satisfying conclusion.

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Review: FATHOMS: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (2020)

Genre: Adult Science Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Decomposition, animal death, climate change, animal cruelty

Whales will always be my favorite thing. So large, so unaware of their size. Such a strange route to evolution, where the progenitor whale went back into the sea, rather than staying in the ocean depths.

The angle this book takes isn’t one that’s strictly about whales. It’s about these gentle giants in concert with both the human world and the natural world. How much we can learn about climate change can also be elucidated from examining their biology. Captivating, anecdotal, and quite funny in places at the absurdity of man, I learn a little bit more with each new whale book I read.

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Review: THE GRIP OF IT by Jac Jemc (2017)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2017
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, menstruation, cervical injury, stalking, gaslighting

A couple finally gets their shit together, buys a house, and move in. But there’s no evidence of the realtor. Their neighbor stalks them and goes missing. There are teeth in the walls. This quick read is creepy, atmospheric, and makes you question reality along with Julie and James.

The simplicity of the prose in this one was what got me. The details and terrors are presented so plainly, there’s no attempt at using metaphor to describe what’s going on, it’s brilliant. The house just has teeth in the walls and secret doors everywhere, it’s not a big deal.

The other edge of the blade that makes this novel work really well is the almost literary presentation of Julie and James’ relationship. He has been keeping a gambling addiction from her. She resorts to the comforts of friends who only have platitudes to offer. When the hauntings move to physical ailments and distortions in reality’s fabric, the house almost becomes a Dorian-Gray-esque reflection of the couple’s inner turmoil.

Getting your life together seems like a terrible idea.

ARC Review: FIREHEART TIGER by Aliette de Bodard (2021)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: emotional abuse, attempted domestic violence, arson

In a palace, Thanh returns from years abroad to a mother that doesn’t value her presence, a fire elemental which has taken to her, and a lover who won’t quite quit. The personal conflict mirrors the political conflict, a perfect blend of interior and exterior stakes.

The structure of this novel is so effective. It’s brief, with so many layers of world-building that would tickle fans of door-stopper fantasies. But it is the relationships that leap off the page. In particular, the waxing of Giang and Thanh’s connection, and the waning of Eldris and Thanh’s relationship really worked well, especially when taken in parallel with Thanh gaining her own footing politically. The precise characterizations and deliberate scenes infuse deep personal stakes that amplify and influence the political machinations. Thanh’s character journey really works. The mutual respect between Thanh and Giang is swoony and casts a warmth like firelight.